Back in my teen years during the mid-1970s, my friends and I had many things in common. The pursuit of girls that wouldn’t go out with us. Either trash-talking or singing the praises of various teachers at our high school. Many of us were new Christians and commiserated with each other over the dearth of music to which we could relate containing lyrics reflecting our newfound faith. Speaking of music, two other common threads wove through our youthful lives. We were quite certain that many decades later, should the Lord tarry in His Second Coming and we would go the way of all flesh, our tombstones would each bear the inscription DISCO STILL SUCKS. Also, at the risk of sounding somewhat blasphemous, we agreed that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were not actually named War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death. Rather, they were Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid. In other words, ABBA.
To be a teenage boy in the 1970s and not immediately relegated to suspicious sideways stares by pretty much every other boy in school meant you had to – HAD to – hate ABBA with a passion. The schlocky lyrics. The polyester, sequined-smothered outfits. The ridiculously overproduced songs. The annoying earworm-ish melodies that would get stuck in your head and remain there until you were standing in the middle of the school grounds during lunchtime screaming for an exorcist, or at the very least someone with a portable eight-track player blasting out Led Zeppelin. You might have secretly found Agnetha and/or Anti-Frid suitable material for private fantasies never to be discussed with even the closest of friends. But that was it. Given a choice between listening to ABBA or suffering a massive acne breakout five minutes before asking your secret crush to the prom, you’d take the Clearasil curse every time.
Fast forward forty-five (ouch) years. We who remain are now in our sixties, hopefully happily centered in this early autumn of our lives. We still dust off our albums and CDs, or tune in to our classic rock stations, occasionally stopping to wonder at exactly which point grunge became part of the classic rock family. Our music tastes may have broadened over the decades, perhaps even mellowed a bit. But we’re still rock‘n’rollers to the core, right? Nothing can change that, right?
And then this happens.
Yes, after forty years and two divorces, ABBA is back with a new album. Decidedly older, yes. And yet, the tunes are still there.
While following the band’s 1982 split Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (who usually went by Frida) tried their hands at solo careers with modest success overseas but not so much here in the States, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson kept working together, most noticeably with the music Chess featuring this ditty.
Still, ABBA was hardly part of the pop culture conscious. That is, until 1999 when several of the band’s songs were incorporated into a musical (Mamma Mia!) which, starting in London, slowly conquered the world, not unlike H.G. Wells’ Martians in War of the Worlds, this time minus the invaders succumbing to earthly pathogens. Nothing can stop the four-headed beast, as the wildly successful 2008 movie version and countless stage productions of Mamma Mia! have amply proved. And now … a new album. I’m already making a mental note to avoid all Targets and Walmarts the day of its release November fifth lest I be trampled by hordes of fans, most of them the girls who wouldn’t go out with me or my friends back in the day, storming the electronics department where the CDs and LPs are sold.
Given the ongoing repercussions of COVID and the minor detail that the members of ABBA range in age from 71 to 76, touring in a conventional manner understandably lacks appeal. What to do? How about build your own arena in London and put on a set of shows with avatars subbing for the foursome, backed by a live band? Yup, that is exactly what ABBA is going to do. The band has released a photo of itself wearing the outfits it used during filming for the show.
We are on our way back! Thank you for waiting.#ABBAVoyage is the concert we've always wanted to perform for our fans. The journey is about to begin!
— ABBA Voyage (@ABBAVoyage) September 2, 2021
Quite the fashion statement.
So, gentle readers, that which was unthinkable is now not only thinkable but reality. ABBA has returned. Even more unthinkable, I kind of like the new song. And, just as it was in the 1970s, to the surprise of many all of this remains unaccompanied by the aforementioned Four Horsemen.